Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine
Synopsis: No one’s ever told Eleanor that life should be better than fine. Meet Eleanor Oliphant: She struggles with appropriate social skills and tends to say exactly what she’s thinking. Nothing is missing in her carefully timetabled life of avoiding social interactions, where weekends are punctuated by frozen pizza, vodka, and phone chats with Mummy. But everything changes when Eleanor meets Raymond, the bumbling and deeply unhygienic IT guy from her office. When she and Raymond together save Sammy, an elderly gentleman who has fallen on the sidewalk, the three become the kinds of friends who rescue one another from the lives of isolation they have each been living. And it is Raymond’s big heart that will ultimately help Eleanor find the way to repair her own profoundly damaged one. Soon to be a major motion picture produced by Reese Witherspoon, Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine is the smart, warm, and uplifting story of an out-of-the-ordinary heroine whose deadpan weirdness and unconscious wit make for an irresistible journey as she realizes the only way to survive is to open your heart.
Diandra Says: A surprising story that has elements of both humor and tragedy. Eleanor is a quirky character that lacks social skills and is an outsider. Throughout the story, more aspects of Eleanor's life are revealed that allow the reader to get a better understanding of Eleanor. Ultimately, this story is about building friendships and learning how to overcome the difficulties that life can bring. Reese Witherspoon's media company, Hello Sunshine, purchased the rights to turn this novel into a film in 2017. As of December 2018, Reese has chosen a screenplay writer for the movie.
Diandra's Past Staff Picks
Force of Nature
Five women reluctantly pick up their backpacks and start walking along a muddy track. Only four come out on the other side. The hike through the rugged Giralang Ranges is meant to take the office colleagues out of their air-conditioned comfort zone and encourage teamwork and resilience. At least, that's what the corporate retreat website advertises. Federal Police investigator Aaron Falk has a keen interest in the whereabouts of the missing hiker, Alice Russell. Because Alice knew secrets, about the company she worked for and the people she worked with. The four returning women tell Falk a tale of fear, violence and fractured trust during their days in the remote Australian bushland. And as Falk delves into the disappearance of Alice, he begins to suspect some dangers ran far deeper than anyone knew.
Donna Says: Harper's mystery brings together interesting characters fighting for survival in an unforgiving environment. The Australian bush, once the hunting ground of a serial killer, becomes its own character that taunts the women hiking the trail. It is the second entry in Harper’s Aaron Falk series but can be read as a stand-alone. It can be used in either the Crime or Criminal category or Police Procedural category in 2019's Read More Challenge.
Donna's Past Staff Picks
Tinseltown: Murder, Morphine, and Madness at the birth of Hollywood
William J. Mann
Synopsis: In a fiendishly involving narrative, bestselling Hollywood chronicler William J. Mann draws on a rich host of sources, including recently released FBI files, to unpack the story of the enigmatic Taylor and the diverse cast that surrounded him—including three beautiful, ambitious actresses; a grasping stage mother; a devoted valet; and a gang of two-bit thugs, any of whom might have fired the fatal bullet. And overseeing this entire landscape of intrigue was Adolph Zukor, the brilliant and ruthless founder of Paramount, locked in a struggle for control of the industry and desperate to conceal the truth about the crime. Along the way, Mann brings to life Los Angeles in the Roaring Twenties: a sparkling yet schizophrenic town filled with party girls, drug dealers, religious zealots, newly-minted legends and starlets already past their prime—a dangerous place where the powerful could still run afoul of the desperate. A true story recreated with the suspense of a novel, Tinseltown is the work of a storyteller at the peak of his powers—and the solution to a crime that has stumped detectives and historians for nearly a century.
Elizabeth Says: William Desmond Taylor was a key figure in the early days of Hollywood, and his shocking murder was part of a string of sandals that almost brought it down. The author uses the story of Taylor to give us a rich history of Hollywood itself. Tinseltown is wonderfully readable and well researched. While the murder of William Desmond Taylor is still officially unsolved the author really does pose a credible theory of the killer’s identity. Recommend for both fans of history and Hollywood. Also can be used for Read More 2019's Crime or criminal category.
Elizabeth's Past Staff Picks
The Secret Life of Violet Grant
Synopsis: Manhattan, 1964. Vivian Schuyler, newly graduated from Bryn Mawr College, has recently defied the privilege of her storied old Fifth Avenue family to do the unthinkable for a budding Kennedy-era socialite: break into the Mad Men world of razor-stylish Metropolitan magazine. But when she receives a bulky overseas parcel in the mail, the unexpected contents draw her inexorably back into her family’s past, and the hushed-over crime passionnel of an aunt she never knew, whose existence has been wiped from the record of history. Berlin, 1914. Violet Schuyler Grant endures her marriage to the philandering and decades-older scientist Dr. Walter Grant for one reason: for all his faults, he provides the necessary support to her liminal position as a young American female physicist in prewar Germany. The arrival of Dr. Grant’s magnetic former student at the beginning of Europe’s fateful summer interrupts this delicate détente. Lionel Richardson, a captain in the British Army, challenges Violet to escape her husband’s perverse hold, and as the world edges into war and Lionel’s shocking true motives become evident, Violet is tempted to take the ultimate step to set herself free and seek a life of her own conviction with a man whose cause is as audacious as her own. As the iridescent and fractured Vivian digs deeper into her aunt’s past and the mystery of her ultimate fate, Violet’s story of determination and desire unfolds, shedding light on the darkness of her years abroad and teaching Vivian to reach forward with grace for the ambitious future and the love she wants most.
Megan Says: What a wonderful book to escape into. It has all the hallmarks of a classic soap opera with a splash of romantic comedy. One of the big plusses for me it that this book does not take itself too seriously; which is utterly refreshing!
Megan's Past Staff Picks
Vanessa and Her Sister
Synopsis: London, 1905: The city is alight with change, and the Stephen siblings are at the forefront. Vanessa, Virginia, Thoby, and Adrian are leaving behind their childhood home and taking a house in the leafy heart of avant-garde Bloomsbury. There they bring together a glittering circle of bright, outrageous artistic friends who will grow into legend and come to be known as the Bloomsbury Group. And at the center of this charmed circle are the devoted, gifted sisters: Vanessa, the painter, and Virginia, the writer. Each member of the group will go on to earn fame and success, but so far Vanessa Bell has never sold a painting. Virginia Woolf’s book review has just been turned down by The Times. Lytton Strachey has not published anything. E. M. Forster has finished his first novel but does not like the title. Leonard Woolf is still a civil servant in Ceylon, and John Maynard Keynes is looking for a job. Together, this sparkling coterie of artists and intellectuals throw away convention and embrace the wild freedom of being young, single bohemians in London. But the landscape shifts when Vanessa unexpectedly falls in love and her sister feels dangerously abandoned. Eerily possessive, charismatic, manipulative, and brilliant, Virginia has always lived in the shelter of Vanessa’s constant attention and encouragement. Without it, she careens toward self-destruction and madness. As tragedy and betrayal threaten to destroy the family, Vanessa must decide if it is finally time to protect her own happiness above all else.
Nina Says: I never recalled much about Virginia Woolf beyond her having a tragic genius and writing Orlando, the novel on which the time-warping, trippy film starring Tilda Swinton is based. A quarter-way through Parmar’s fictional account of Woolf, Vanessa Bell and the Bloomsbury Group, I wanted to read every bio I could get my hands on. A mesmerizing page-turner.
Nina's Past Staff Picks
The Travelling Cat Chronicles
Synopsis: Nana the cat is on a road trip. He is not sure where he's going or why, but it means that he gets to sit in the front seat of a silver van with his beloved owner, Satoru. Side by side, they cruise around Japan through the changing seasons, visiting Satoru's old friends. He meets Yoshimine, the brusque and unsentimental farmer for whom cats are just ratters; Sugi and Chikako, the warm-hearted couple who run a pet-friendly B&B; and Kosuke, the mournful husband whose cat-loving wife has just left him. There's even a very special dog who forces Nana to reassess his disdain for the canine species. But what is the purpose of this road trip? And why is everyone so interested in Nana? Nana does not know and Satoru won't say. But when Nana finally works it out, his small heart will break.
Randall Says: Told from the perspective of Nana the cat, Arikawa’s travelogue will charm you with its simple prose and endearing characters. This heartwarming story of friendship is a great pick for the Road Trip category of your Read More challenge.
Randall's Past Staff Picks
An Absolutely Remarkable Thing
Synopsis: Roaming through New York City at three a.m., twenty-three-year-old April May stumbles across a giant sculpture. Delighted by its appearance and craftsmanship—like a ten-foot-tall Transformer wearing a suit of samurai armor—April and her friend, Andy, make a video with it, which Andy uploads to YouTube. The next day, April wakes up to a viral video and a new life. News quickly spreads that there are Carls in dozens of cities around the world—from Beijing to Buenos Aires—and April, as their first documentarian, finds herself at the center of an intense international media spotlight. Seizing the opportunity to make her mark on the world, April now has to deal with the consequences her new particular brand of fame has on her relationships, her safety, and her own identity. And all eyes are on April to figure out not just what the Carls are, but what they want from us. Compulsively entertaining and powerfully relevant, An Absolutely Remarkable Thing grapples with big themes, including how the social internet is changing fame, rhetoric, and radicalization; how our culture deals with fear and uncertainty; and how vilification and adoration spring for the same dehumanization that follows a life in the public eye. The beginning of an exciting fiction career, An Absolutely Remarkable Thing is a bold and insightful novel of now.
Swaneet Says: Hank Green’s debut novel grapples with important issues for the digital age with grace and expertise. Comedy, mystery, and otherworldly technology come together in this book that ultimately centers around what it means to exist in this precise moment in time. Green doesn’t shy away from the hard questions and uncomfortable truths of our time, but instead weaves meaning out of their placement within the pages without lecturing. As a longtime fan of his video blogging, I enjoyed his unique storytelling style on the page as well as the screen. I’d recommend this book for the Technology category in Read More challenge.
Swaneet's Past Staff Picks